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Impossibly great results in latest ‘Mission’

Sean Sweany | Thursday, November 2, 2006

The mission given to hit television show “Lost” co-creator J.J. Abrams – should he choose to accept it – was to take an aging and unpopular movie franchise headlined by a controversial Hollywood star and revitalize it for the modern film audience.

Abrams accepted the mission and completed it with stunning results, creating “Mission: Impossible III” (M:I III), a film that grossed almost $400 million worldwide and was recently released on DVD. Not only was “M:I III” a commercial success, but it was less stylized and dramatic than John Woo’s adaptation and less confusing than Brian DePalma’s original film.

“M:I III” continues the saga of IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), who has retired from impossible missions to spend time with his fiancée Julia (Michelle Monaghan, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”). Hunt is forced out of retirement to help an old colleague and save the world from evil mastermind Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote”) while keeping Julia in the dark.

While the plot in “M:I III” offers no more or less than the previous two films, the storytelling is clearer and more intelligent. Abrams’ script keeps the action coming while providing just enough slower moments of character development to allow the audience to catch its breath.

Directorially, Abrams does an excellent job of shooting the four main action scenes and maintains a slick feel throughout the film. He also deserves credit for managing Cruise – recently plagued with controversy and popular distaste – and preventing “M:I III” from becoming “The Tom Cruise Movie.”

Cruise’s performance is actually better than much of his recent fare and points back to his “Jerry Maguire” days when he appeared to enjoy acting. The film’s supporting cast members do a wonderful job, most notably Philip Seymour Hoffman, who devilishly plays the maniacal madman. Laurence Fishburne (“The Matrix”) and Billy Crudup (“Big Fish”) also give memorable performances as IMF leaders.

“Mission: Impossible III” is one of the first major films to be released on several DVD formats at the same time. The movie is available as a one-disc standard edition, two-disc special edition or collector’s box set. The special edition comes either on regular DVD, HD-DVD or Blu Ray.

This multi-format release is intended to allow fans to purchase as many special features as they would like. Out of the various choices, the special edition is well worth the money of both casual and ardent fans. Unlike often boring director commentaries, the conversation between Abrams and Cruise is fun and revealing. The inclusion of such an entertaining and engaging commentary is a sign that creators took great care in putting together such an outstanding DVD, notwithstanding the other special features.

Several “Making Of” featurettes give insight into virtually every aspect of production and do an excellent job of maintaining the excitement and energy of the film. Especially interesting is the “Mission: Metamorphosis” feature, which details the complexities of creation and filming of the latex masks various characters wear throughout the film.

With such excellent special features combined with a well-made and exhilarating film, “M:I III” is one of the better DVD releases of the year. The film itself stands far above the second “Mission: Impossible” movie and comes close to rivaling the first in terms of its storytelling and tone. Just as Abrams took on the mission of resurrecting the “M:I” franchise, so should film fans accept the mission of purchasing and enjoying the “M:I III” DVD.